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Introduction | Facts about IPSV and Fatality | Why? | For Survivors | For Professionals | Resources on IPSV and Fatality | Sources

"IPSV"="Intimate Partner Sexual Violence"

IPSV and Fatality
Australian researcher Rochelle Braaf writes (1), "A number of risk factors have been identified as significantly associated with perpetrator lethality in relationships characterized by violence, including sexual abuse as a risk factor. However, sexual abuse has arguably received the least attention by service workers and the criminal justice system. More than others, it is this risk factor that tends to be unreported by women, denied or minimised by abusive men, and avoided by workers and the criminal justice system."

As a survivor of battery who was also raped, I have often thanked my stars that I am still here. And there's very real reason for that. I've said elsewhere on this site that partner rape, when it is occurring with battery, carries a heightened risk of subsequent murder by an abusive partner. When talking about partner rape, I never miss an opportunity to put this across It's essential for survivors to understand, and is also one of the most crucial reasons that professionals - counsellors, advocates, doctors, police, judges, clergy and all others with whom a survivor might interact - take notice of IPSV and offer appropriate help. It has the very real potential to save lives.

This page will take a look at some facts about IPSV and fatality, and offer resources for survivors, and anybody else wanting to look into this serious issue further.

This graphic is used with kind permission of The National Judicial Education Program. Please do not use it in any other context without permission from the source.
  • As revealed by the graphic above, in David Adam’s study, 75 percent of women whose partners attempted to kill them, were also raped.
  • In Jacquelyn Campbell's risk-assessment table, " ‘Woman forced to have sex when not wanted’ was the fifth most predictive item, ahead of such factors as escalating physical violence and partner's drug abuse (2).
  • A physically-abused woman also experiencing forced sex is more than seven times more likely than other abused women to be killed (3).
  • Sexual abuse may pose the greatest risk factor for lethality: According to Braaf (4), "Campbell et al. (2003) conducted a key study in the US comparing sample groups across 11 cities to identify risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships. The bivariate analysis found an abuser’s use of forced sex was associated with risk of homicide, along with a number of other variables (such as stalking, strangulation, abuse during pregnancy and perpetrator suicidality).Tellingly, the researchers’ multivariate analysis of the effect of these variables found forced sex to be the only associated factor to emerge (p. 1092)".
  • There are also factors in the sexual assaults themselves that can aid prediction of fatality. Adam’s (5) study of batterers who raped and attempted to murder partners revealed a pattern of demanding sex after beatings. Greater severity of violence and acts like strangulation associated with IPSV may also be predictive of subsequent murder (6)
  • Other fatal scenarios are when victims kill their abusive partners, and suicidality in victims/survivors of partner rape.  Two studies indicate that homicidal women are more likely than non-homicidal women to have experienced rape by abusive partners (7, 8). The study of McFarlane et. al also found that battered women who experience rape were 5.3 times more likely to attempt suicide or feel suicidal than women who were battered only (9)
  • The risk of rape and murder escalates if a woman is exiting the relationship, or after she has done so (10, 11 )
Well, the answer that comes to me immediately is that it should suprise nobody that the extreme sense of entitlement in men who rape and batter their partner would also make killing her a logical step for some. In my own experience, the rape and murderous threats (including one experience of hostage-taking at knifepoint) extended from his sense of complete ownership of me. My body was his to do with as he wished; my life, if it was not tied to his, was also his to take. Consider the ownership inherent in the words of Bruce Daniels, who tracked down his ex-wife, Rachel Miller five years after separation, and raped and beat her to death. When asked about raping her, Daniels said "(I wanted) to make love to my wife." His justification for murdering Rachel was, among other things, that she would not say she loved him. (You can read the transcript of Daniels' police interview here, but survivors should be aware that it could be extremely triggering). Sometimes, there seems to be a singular lack of conscience, for example Adam's study (12) reveals a chilling callousness on the part of men who killed their partners - only one of the men he interviewed expressed any remorse. The rest spoke about the women they'd killed in bitter and blaming terms. It's all about them (both raping and killing), and if you've lived with a batterer/rapist, you'll know what I mean. What does research say? Partner rape is often associated with escalating violence; it is often repeated, and occasions high levels of physical injury (13). Partner-killing appears to be on the same continuum of violence as partner rape. Killing is an expression of ultimate control (14) that stems from the same root as rape and battery - perhaps, with rape, just that much more than battery alone.
  • If a woman is experiencing domestic violence, always screen for sexual assault. You can find an easy way of asking and responding here. Remember that if women underrport IPSV, this is often because nobody is asking about it.
  • Refuges and other DV services must develop a policy of asking about sexual assault. Sexual assault services must also refer IPSV survivors to DV services for safety planning.
  • Doctors, Clergy and Generalist counsellors: Refer IPSV survivors to domestic violence services for safety issues
  • Warn battered women that sexual assault poses a fatality risk, and help them safety-plan accordingly
  • Police and other legal professionals must take seriously the threat to a woman's's life that IPSV concurrent with battery and other forms of abuse can constitute, and act to protect her
  • When a man demands, and has, sex with his partner after beating her, it is rape, not sex. She knows, and he knows that she knows, that the violence will begin again or get worse if she does not submit. He is raping her. Call it rape, and know that it is a red flag that her life may be in danger.
  • Educate yourself about IPSV.
If you are experiencing partner rape as well as being beaten, you are probably already frightened enough. But you have the right to know that the rape carries extra threat to your life. You may not need me to tell you that your partner is capable of killing you - maybe you're afraid to leave precisely because of that fact. However, as Rochelle Braaf (15) points out, some of us may have a tendency to underestimate the danger of violent partners. I know I did for a little while; I didn't think he would actually kill me, but by the time I left him for the last time, I knew my life was in serious danger. As you may already know, this can be terrifying. Please, do reach out to a domestic violence service (you can find international numbers here). You are worth it. Your life is worth it. You deserve to be safe. I want you to be around for a lot longer. Even if you don't think your life is in danger, you still deserve to be free from rape and other abuse.

Even if you don't believe your partner would kill you, you may be feeling very depressed as a result of repeated rape. You may have contemplated suicide because it can be hard to see any way out. I would also urge you to please call a domestic violence line and talk about your feelings. Domestic violence services can help you see past the sense of entrapment you may be feeling. If you are feeling suicidal right now, please, reach out to a suicide hotline. You can find numbers here.
  • The National Judicial Education Program - A free IPSV course. Although it is aimed at members of the judiciary, it has excellent material for anybody who encounters IPSV, and covers IPSV and fatality
  • Preventing Domestic Violence Death - is a Sexual Assault a Risk Factor? - Rochelle Braaf - Essential reading article that looks at numerous studies establishing links between IPSV and lethality, as well as strategies for professional response.
  • Assessing Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Homicide - A team of researchers studied the Danger Assessment and found that despite certain limitations, the tool can with some reliability identify women who may be at risk of being killed by an intimate partner.
  • The Danger Assessment Tool - Jacquelyn Campbell's innovative project - The Danger Assessment helps to determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner. It is free and available to the public. Using the Danger Assessment requires the weighted scoring and interpretation that is provided after completing the training. The Danger Assessment is available in a variety of languages.
  1. Braaf, R. (2011) “Preventing domestic violence death – Is sexual assault a risk factor?” Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Research and Practice Brief, 1(October ).
  2. Campbell, J., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C, Campbell, D., Curry, M., et al. (2003, November). "Assessing risk factors for intimate partner homicide". NIJ Journal, 250, 14-19.
  3. Campbell, J., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C, Campbell, D., Curry, M., et al. (2003, November). "Assessing risk factors for intimate partner homicide." NIJ Journal, 250, 14-19.
  4. Braaf, R. (2011) “Preventing domestic violence death – Is sexual assault a risk factor?” Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Research and Practice Brief, 1(October ).
  5. Adams, D. (2007), Why do they kill?: men who murder their intimate partners, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville
  6. Campbell, J. & Soeken, K. (1999),"‘Forced sex and intimate partner violence: effects on women’s risk and women’s health", Violence Against Women, vol. 5, issue 9, pp. 1017 - 1035
  7. Browne, A. (1987), When battered women kill, The Free Press, New York
  8. Block, C (2000), The Chicago Women’s Health Risk Study, risk of serious injury or death in intimate violence; a collaborative research project. Final report, Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Washington DC
  9. McFarlane, J., Malecha, A., Watson, K., Gist, J., Batten, E., Hall, I. & Smith, S. (2005), "Intimate partner sexual assault against women and associated victim substance use, suicidality and risk factors for femicide", Issues in Mental Health Nursing, vol. 26, pp. 284 - 289
  10. Dobash R & Dobash R 2010, ‘What were they thinking? Men who murder an intimate partner’, Violence Against Women, vol. 17, issue 1, pp. 111-134
  11. Block, C. & DeKeseredy, W. (2007), "Forced sex and leaving intimate relationships: results of the Chicago Women’s Health Risk Study", Women’s Health and Urban Life, vol. 5, pp. 6–23
  12. Adams, D. (2007), Why do they kill?: men who murder their intimate partners, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville
  13. Myhill, A. and Allen, J. (2002) Rape and Sexual Assault of Women: Findings from the British Crime Survey. London: Home Office.
  14. Braaf, R. (2011) “Preventing domestic violence death – Is sexual assault a risk factor?” Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Research and Practice Brief, 1 (October ).
  15. Braaf, R. (2011) “Preventing domestic violence death – Is sexual assault a risk factor?” Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Research and Practice Brief, 1 (October ).

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